While momentum has been building in the mobile-ordering space, the pandemic has put the movement into overdrive as
restaurateurs turn their thoughts to optimizing the touchless customer experience.
With mobile ordering, the underlying focus these days can be summed up in one word —engagement, says Brian Deck, CEO of Smooth Commerce in Toronto, a white-label e-commerce developer in Toronto. “It’s no longer just about ordering and operational support for those orders. Restaurants need to be doing a good job engaging their customers, given the pandemic has created additional demand for contactless options from payment to loyalty to delivery.”
Data gleaned from its own customer base shows that from January 2020 to January 2021, stores on its mobile-ordering platform experienced a 244-per-cent increase in the average number of orders and a 293-per-cent increase in the number of unique customers ordering takeout or delivery.
“The one that really stands out is that total revenue per order increased 13 per cent,” he says. “That’s a good [indication of] where things are going.”
Vancouver-based website consultant Justin Everett has been spending the bulk of his time optimizing restaurant menus and ordering systems to make them more mobile compatible.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand for mobile- first, responsive design,” he says. “We call it a menu-first design, where the site no longer has your menu — it is your menu.
Simple static photography is not enough to engage customers at a high level. Integrating pop-up views of menu items or allowing items to “accordian” out while browsing are some of the ways restaurants are creating a more dynamic menu-browsing experience, he explains. Another must have is clearly indicated calls to action for ordering and delivery.
“QR codes are another interesting story,” Everett says. “Before the pandemic, it was a novelty. Now it’s at the forefront because it allows customers to skip to the menu without having to go to a landing page to find it.”
Integration with POS and back-end systems is also key, he adds. “The industry is moving to a one-size-fits-all, fully integrated solution that allows for customized online portals.”
Gooseneck Hospitality in Vancouver has worked on various levels of mobile-ordering upgrades for its Lucky Taco, Bells & Whistles and Bufala concepts. James Iranzad, partner, reports its online- shopping experience and ordering numbers have improved considerably since.
“Depending on the site and location, takeout and delivery accounts for 20 to 35 per cent of sales right now. Some credit for the sales growth has to be due to the fact that people like the interface.”
The work included a fair amount of interfacing with the POS systems, he adds. “We also came out with online interactive menus to make them more conducive to ordering. We added photography for every menu item and added all available third-party-delivery options.”
In January 2020, Kitchen Hub in Toronto opened its first in what would become a network of pickup and delivery hubs for multiple restaurant brands, including Pai, Fresh Restaurants, The Carbon Bar, Daan Go, Greenhouse, Chubby’s, Impact Kitchens and Gusto.
The timing couldn’t have been better, says Fiona Windrim, Strategy and Operations manager. “COVID-19 threw us into a tailwind. We set up in the nick of time.”
Its mobile platform allows users to order across brands and consolidate them in a
single order. “It’s an opportunity for discovery for customers, and gives participating restaurants exposure they wouldn’t have had before.”
The world of digital ordering is evolving quickly, she notes. “With digital ordering there aren’t the same opportunities to have strong relationship-building touchpoints like you have in restaurants. Now, more and more, [operators] are engaging in text communications to directly connect with their customers.”
As mobile-ordering continues to ramp up in a contactless world, Windrim constantly has her eye on what’s to come. “We’re always asking ourselves how we can bring the surprise and delight experience with mobile ordering with things like video, remembering past orders, adjusting interfaces based on ordering history and bidirectional texting.
I have a big wish list.”